E-Mail Newsletter – January 12, 2014

This past week, the State Legislature kicked off the new session and Governor Cuomo presented the State of the State address with a host of policy initiatives. While we await the details of the Governor's proposals, below are some initial thoughts.

State of the State

Tax relief for residents and businesses

Local municipalities face enormous fiscal challenges as the state continues its economic recovery. The Governor has proposes a limited property tax “circuit breaker” that in concept has the potential to relief part of the tax burden on fixed income or middle income property taxpayers. While the proposal is expected to be very limited in scope, it may open the door to more ideas for property tax relief. In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for relief in areas such as Albany where over 57 percent of the property is tax exempt and for relief through PILOT payments by the state.

Implementing full-day, pre-kindergarten across New York State

Although the top education funding priority must be on K-12 grade classrooms (fully funding GEA, etc.), it's encouraging to see a renewed focus on full-day Pre-K education across the state. Additional classroom space will be needed, as well as figuring capital costs and the need for approval in order to make Pre-K education a reality.

The opportunity for students – especially in our most distressed communities – being able to get a jump start in education has shown demonstrated savings in future education and intervention costs. I will be introducing a bill in the near future to provide school districts parity in state transportation costs for Pre-K students as are now provided for K-12 students.

Full tuition scholarships for STEM students

One of the most significant surprises in the State of the State, was the proposal for free tuition to any SUNY or CUNY college or university for the top 10 percent of NYS high school graduates if they pursue a STEM career and then remain working in New York for five years. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – “STEM” – fields are one of the fastest-growing sectors of New York’s economy. This will help encourage the best and brightest students to pursue STEM college degrees and build their careers in New York. This is an incredible opportunity for our state to hopefully stem the migration of graduates out of New York State after graduation.

Enacting all ten points of the Women’s Equality Act

I was pleased to hear the Governor reiterate his support for all ten points of the Women’s Equality Act, which passed the Assembly but lost traction in the Senate last year.

+ Achieve Pay Equity

+ End Family Status Discrimination

+ Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces

+ Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All

+ Allow for the Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Employment and Credit and Lending Cases

+ Better Position the State to Address Source of Income Discrimination

+ Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence

+ Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order of Protection Laws

+ Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws

+ Protect Freedom of Choice

Expanding NY Youth Works

The proposed expansion of the NY Youth Works program, an initiative I helped draft while at the State Department of Labor, is particularly encouraging. NY Youth Works has connected nearly 13,000 youth to jobs here in New York and with the additional funding; the goal is 20,000 youth will be able to join the workforce.

Fair elections and increased enforcement

I was pleased the Governor reiterated his support for public campaign finance system across the state, along with full disclosure of campaign contributions. I will continue to support measures as strong as necessary to prevent abuse.

“Raise the Age”

New York is one of only two states where the age of criminal responsibility – the age at which individuals are treated as adults in the criminal justice system – is 16. I applaud the Governor’s effort to create a commission to provide recommendations on changing the way New York State treats youths in the criminal and juvenile justice system.

Increased penalties for drunk and distracted driving

I support the Governor's proposed increased penalties for those who engage in drunk or dangerous driving. The proposed new law will suspend licenses for five years for drivers found guilty of two convictions for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol in a three-year period. The law will also provide for full revocation of licenses for those drivers who have three such convictions in their lifetime.

For any person under age 21 convicted of texting-while-driving, the Governor has proposed a new law that will double the period of their license suspension from six months to a year.

Promoting the Empire State

The Governor deserves true credit for his untiring efforts to promote New York State tourism, products and farms - and it has paid dividends. Upstate New York is one of our nation’s most beautiful regions. Additional efforts to revitalize state parks (such as Thacher Park) and to provide additional opportunity for adventure will be welcome ones for tourism in our region.

You’re invited to our open house on Friday, Jan. 24: Come join us on Friday, Jan. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in our office (Room 452 in the Legislative Office Building in Albany) for an open house. Please note you must enter through either the State Capitol or the Empire State Plaza concourse to go through security in order to enter the building.

Capital District Assembly Update: Tune in every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Channel 17 (for Time Warner Cable subscribers) for the next episode of Capital District Assembly Update, co-hosted by Assemblymember McDonald and me.

As always, for the latest about my office’s happenings or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---